How to grow red clover

How to grow red clover

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Red clover (Trifolium pratense L.) is a fast growing member of the legume family that germinates easily under most conditions. Red clover is often used as a cover crop and natural fertilizer to add nitrogen to the soil over the winter. This plant is tolerant of shade and grows under a variety of conditions that make it ideal for growing in conjunction with other garden crops. Red clover sown alongside corn rows will naturally fertilizer the nearby corn plants and limit erosion in your garden.

Seed Treatment

If you plan on using your red clover as a natural method of fertilization, you will need to innoculate the seeds with rhizobium first. This bacteria is a necessary part of the natural process that red clover uses to transfer nitrogen from the atmosphere to the soil. Rhizobium is available from many seed distributors.

Sowing Times

Red clover sown during the fall uses the nitrogen-fixing capabilities of red clover to prepare the soil for the next year’s crop. Plant your fall red clover crop at least 6 weeks before the first frost. This allows your red clover time to germinate and establish a healthy level of growth.

Overseeding

In gardens with established crops you can use a broadcast spreader to spread red clover over the surface of your garden between your garden rows. Establish your other garden plants first to ensure that they are not competing with the clover. Rake the spaces between your rows and seed the red clover between each one at a rate of one ounce per 226 square feet. Apply a fertilizer high in nitrogen between your existing garden rows before you overseed your garden with clover, to promote growth after it germinates.

Sowing Seeds

Red clover seeds germinate readily in bare ground when they are planted at a depth between 1/8 and 1/4 of an inch. Seeds that are planted deeper than 1/2 an inch may not germinate. Use a roto-tiller or hoe to create rows in your garden that are less than 1/2 an inch deep. Space your rows within an inch of each other to create a dense cover of red clover. Sow your seeds into each row at a rate of one ounce for every 453 square feet of ground. Cover the seeds with a layer of dirt no more than a 1/4 of an inch thick.

Considerations and Care

Red clover requires very little maintenance and grows best without fertilizer. If your area is experiencing persistently dry weather, water your seeds enough to thoroughly moisten the surrounding soil. Red clover grows in most types of soil but it performs best in well drained, loamy soils with a pH rating above 6. Consider adding a layer of topsoil to your garden if you are having trouble establishing your clover in sandy or rocky soil.

  • United States Department of Agriculture: Red Clover
  • Michigan State University: Red Clover
  • Pennslyvannia State University: Management of Red Clover as a Cover Crop

Daniel Thompson began writing about analytical literature in 2004. He has written informative guides for a hardware store and was published at an academic conference as part of a collaborative project. He attained a Bachelors of Fine Arts in English literature from Eastern Kentucky University.

Binomial Name: Trifolium pratense L.
Varieties:

Red clover is grown as a forage for grazing, and for feed as cultivated hay. The sweet taste is due to the high sugar content, so care should be given when feeding. If you do not understand the ideal dietary recommendations, consult an animal feed expert, veterinarian, or other qualified professional. Horses, in particular, can be susceptible to colic and other digestive disorders and should be fed red clover with great care. As always, consult an animal feed expert, veterinarian, or other qualified professional before initiating any feeding regime.

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Deep, well-drained, fertile

Part shade to full sun

For hay, thin to 12-18″ or less

Cattle, horses, sheep

Growing Guide
GROWING NOTES

For livestock feed, red clover can be grown as full-sized plants and used for hay, or broadcast and used for grazing. If growing for hay, sow seeds 8-10″ apart and thin to approximately 12″, depending on rate of growth and other factors. Red clover shares many of the same growing preferences as alfalfa, and the two are often sown together as companions. Red clover and oats also make suitable companion plants. However, oats should be harvested earlier as silage to minimize competition for water and shade.

Red clover will grow better if started after the last frost of the spring, once established grass stands in other locations start to show steady growth. It can be broadcast, or sown by other means, at any point during the growing season, once conditions become favorable. Like most seeds, they require warmth and plenty of water to germinate. Do not start in arid or excessively dry locations or conditions. If sowing in fall, do not sow later than one month prior to the first average frost of the fall.

Red clover sown earlier in the spring season (or late in the fall the previous year) will result in more harvests, and thus a greater overall yield over the growing season. Ideally, three harvests can be obtained if sown early.

A well-prepared seedbed is essential to healthy red clover plants. This should be done 6 months or more prior to the expected planting date to ensure that added amendments have significant time to react with soil. The first step will be to test the pH of the soil with a tester, available at a farm or home & garden store. Ideally, the soil should have a pH between 6.0 to 7.0. Soil can be amended with lime (limestone) if needed to raise pH. Do not sow if pH is not 6.2 or higher.

When sowing, be cautious not to sow seeds too deeply. Seeds should be sown at a depth of approximately ¼”. Seeds sown deeper may not be able to break through the surface of the soil. Gently pack soil to ensure good seed to soil contact. For best results, fertilize concurrently as you sow with an organic blend high in phosphorus.

Once established, red clover is hardy and will grow with relative ease. It can survive with moderate water and sunlight, and is relatively tolerant of drought and other conditions. To promote faster, more vigorous growth, red clover can be fertilized with nitrogen throughout the growing season.

Red clover stands can be depleted unless rotational grazing is practiced. Generally, the same paddock (partitioned division of a field) should not be grazed more than four days in a row, though this can vary depending on the size of the paddock and number of animals. It is generally recommended to create and maintain 6-8 or more paddocks that can be rotated to allow enough time for regrowth between grazings.

Be sure to maintain a close watch over your fields to prevent overgrazing. Overgrazed fields can lead to damage to alfalfa plants and other forage crops. Additionally, animals left to feed on overgrazed fields will not reap the same nutritional benefits as those feeding on more ideal plots, eating stems or other nutrient-poor plant matter. Similarly, undergrazing can cause plants to grow to large and become unpalatable to feeding animals, who will seek out the younger, tastier plants. While the ‘window’ of ideal taste and nutritional quality is longer for red clover than other plants, it will still become unpalatable if allowed to become overgrown. This may require additional maintenance to cut down overgrown plants, costing time and energy that could more effectively be plied elsewhere.

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It enriches the soil, feeds the bees, makes a mean cup of tea. and you might just find a lucky four-leafer

‘Red clover is a good-hearted plant.’ Photograph: Getty Images

‘Red clover is a good-hearted plant.’ Photograph: Getty Images

M y love is always looking for lucky leaves if there’s clover about. I’ll find her with her head down, hunting patiently through a patch. I, however, am looking for something else from our native red clover, Trifolium pratense.

It is a good-hearted plant, full of value: an amazing medicine, a tough perennial that is an excellent green manure, and a friend to many a beneficial insect. As it is a perennial evergreen, it photosynthesises constantly, which means it is endlessly filling the root zone in the soil with nutrients. This increases microbial activity.

Bees love red clover. Photograph: Getty Images

Red clover has deep roots that help to improve structure by binding soil together. In summer, it will aid moisture retention, and in winter it will prevent erosion. It is particularly useful for heavier clay soils. Clover is famous for fixing atmospheric nitrogen into the soil via its nodules; this in turn increases the nitrogen available for other plants.

It flowers endlessly throughout the summer, and the blooms are full of goodies, namely nectar and pollen, for the long-tongued bumblebees. It is so full of nectar than even shorter-tongued honeybees get a look-in. The flower heads are also rich in minerals and phytoestrogens, which means they are often used in herbal medicine for menopausal symptoms, aiming to balance hormones and relieve hot flushes and breast pain. They are also used for problem skin conditions, such as eczema. When dried, the flower heads work well as a nourishing and cleansing herbal tea.

It can be used as a traditional green manure, sowing in blocks, and also works well for paths, because it can tolerate foot traffic and mowing, and, unlike grass, will feed the soil even under those conditions. If not mown too short, it can reach up to 60cm, making it a good habitat for predatory insects, such as beetles.

White clover is useful to the soil. Photograph: Getty Images

If you have a lawn, it is highly likely you may already have some red clover, though there is more than one type; white (Trifolium repens) is equally useful to the soil, but is not used medicinally. You can tell the difference between the two when not in flower by the underside of the leaves: red clover is hairy.

Sow from now through early September. If you are sowing for a path, you’ll have to keep off the track until it establishes, which will happen quickly enough. If you want to add clover to an existing lawn, scarify your grass hard with a rake – you want to remove all buildup of thatch and expose some bare ground – then scatter seeds and rake again, but this time lightly, so the seed makes contact with the soil. Water in well and keep watering until you see the first signs of germination.

Learn how to grow red clover in this article. Planting and growing red clover require a few requirements that are given below.

How to grow red clover

USDA Zones— 3 – 8

Difficulty— Easy

Other Names— Beebread, Cow Clover, Daidzein, Genistein, Isoflavone, Meadow Clover, Phytoestrogen, Purple Clover, Trebol Rojo, Trèfle Commun, Trèfle des Prés, Trèfle Pourpre, Trèfle Rougeâtre, Trèfle Violet, Trefoil, Trifolium, Trifolium pratense, Wild Clover

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is a perennial plant, grown widespread and cultivated as a forage grass in many countries. Red clover prefers grasslands and wet meadows, where it grows up to 50 centimeters in height, producing spikes of purple-red color.

It is a legume and has been used as a cover crop like white clover. Red clover is also considered as a medicinal plant. The drug is made from its flowers, which contain a volatile oil that consists flavonoids, derivatives of coumarin and cyanogenic glycosides.

Propagation and Planting Red Clover

High yield is obtained by sowing of 3.63 to 4.54 kg of red clover seeds per acre in a well-prepared soil. Seeds are sowed in spring or summer, depending on the climate at the depth of 1-2 cm, spacing each plant 30-40 cm apart. Wide spacing of plants helps in proper growth.

Requirements for Growing Red Clover

Red clover can be grown in poor soil too but for optimum growth soil should be moderately fertile, calcium rich and slightly acidic to neutral in pH.

Position

Growing red clover is suitable in a partially shaded spot.

Fertilizer

It also requires phosphorus and potassium fertilization in early spring or fall. Before seed sowing use 80-120 kg of phosphorus per hectare, whereas potassium is applied in two doses: before sowing and early spring in quantities of 50-70 kg.

Diseases and pests

Plantations of red clover are attacked by threatening fungal infections, bacterial and viral infections, which can bring significant losses in yield. Common diseases that attack red clover are brown spot and powdery mildew. Fungal infections also affect the condition of the leaves – plants wilt, turn yellow and wither.

Harvesting

To learn how to harvest red clover, read this.

Red clover, scientifically known as Trifolium pratense, is a plant that is mainly grown as a forage grass for grazing in many countries. It is easy to plant and it is even easier to learn how to grow red clover. Besides, there are a lot of varieties of red clover that you can grow, and they are widely available in markets.

Red clover is grown worldwide for two main reasons. The first is that it is a highly healthy plant that contains flavonoids, derivatives of coumarin and cyanogenic glycosides which they enhance the performance of any animal. The second reason is that it improves the soil quality of your garden and supplies it with organic matter.

Furthermore, red clover is a very sturdy plant that can adapt to different environmental conditions. It is both drought tolerant and cold tolerant which make it nearly indestructible. If you want to better your garden soil quality and improve the productivity of other plants you have in your garden, read the below steps to learn how to grow red clover.

1. Propagation and Planting Red Clover

How to grow red clover

Similar to any kind of seeds, red clover seeds require warmth and plenty of water to germinate. If you are looking for a high yield, you should sow 3.63 to 4.54 kg of red clover seeds per acre in a well-draining soil. For better results, you should start sowing in spring or in summer.

Red clover plants also need space, so make sure that you leave a space of at least 30 to 40 cm between each plant in all directions. It will help them grow better and faster. When sowing the seeds, poke a hole of 1 to 2 inches deep for each seed. Sow only one seed per hole.

2. Soil

Although red clover is a highly adaptive plant that can grow and thrive in any quality of soil even the poor ones, it is preferable that you plant red clover in a slightly acidic well-draining soil. If you want a to obtain heavy yield, use a fertile soil that is rich in calcium.

For pH, Red clover likes a neutral pH. A perfect pH would be 6.4, however, any pH between 6.0 and 7.0 is acceptable.

3. Location

How to grow red clover

Red clover can be grown in any position as it is an extremely tough plant. But, if you want your plant to produce and flower heavily, it is ideal that you grow it in a partially shady location.

4. Fertilizing

The best time to fertilize red clover is early spring or fall. A fertilizer that contains phosphorus and potassium is an excellent choice. You can’t fertilize red clover in the growing season, it is harmful to the plant. Thus it is better to fertilize it before seed-sowing.

Fertilize the plant once with 80 to 120 kg of phosphorus per hectare before sowing. Don’t over fertilize it won’t lead to better results. You should also apply potassium fertilize twice. Once before sowing and once in early spring. The quantity of potassium that you should use should range between 50-70 kg.

5. Pests and diseases

There are a lot of pests and diseases that could attack your plants and cause you losses in yield. Among these pests and diseases, the most dangerous ones are fungal infections, bacterial and viral infections. The most widespread red clover diseases are brown spot and powdery mildew. You should also be careful of fungal infections as they are extremely harmful to your plants’ leaves.

6. Harvesting

How to grow red clover

Red clover usually lasts for 3 years. You will obtain the highest yield in the second year. It is advisable that you harvest red clover before it fully blooms. If you allow it to fully bloom, it will lead to a decrease in your yields.

Harvest red clover once per year preferably between August and September. If you want a full detailed guide how to harvest red clover, please follow this link.

These steps are the best steps to follow in order to obtain a high yield of red clover. Besides, they are the easiest steps to successfully grow this widespread plant. It is highly recommended that you grow this plant to improve your soil quality, feed your animals and cover your garden ground.

If you are interested in growing long seasoned plants, you may also want to read how to grow dragon fruit.

Enjoy your gardening and let us know if you have any further inquiries and questions.

How to grow red clover

Related Articles

  • Is Clover an Alternative Groundcover?
  • How to Plant on Leach Fields
  • Which Material Will Seeds Grow Better in?
  • How to Restart a Grass Lawn
  • How to Inoculate Edamame

Red clover (Trifolium pratense L.) is a fast growing member of the legume family that germinates easily under most conditions. Red clover is often used as a cover crop and natural fertilizer to add nitrogen to the soil over the winter. This plant is tolerant of shade and grows under a variety of conditions that make it ideal for growing in conjunction with other garden crops. Red clover sown alongside corn rows will naturally fertilizer the nearby corn plants and limit erosion in your garden.

Seed Treatment

If you plan on using your red clover as a natural method of fertilization, you will need to innoculate the seeds with rhizobium first. This bacteria is a necessary part of the natural process that red clover uses to transfer nitrogen from the atmosphere to the soil. Rhizobium is available from many seed distributors.

Sowing Times

Red clover sown during the fall uses the nitrogen-fixing capabilities of red clover to prepare the soil for the next year’s crop. Plant your fall red clover crop at least 6 weeks before the first frost. This allows your red clover time to germinate and establish a healthy level of growth.

Overseeding

In gardens with established crops you can use a broadcast spreader to spread red clover over the surface of your garden between your garden rows. Establish your other garden plants first to ensure that they are not competing with the clover. Rake the spaces between your rows and seed the red clover between each one at a rate of one ounce per 226 square feet. Apply a fertilizer high in nitrogen between your existing garden rows before you overseed your garden with clover, to promote growth after it germinates.

Sowing Seeds

Red clover seeds germinate readily in bare ground when they are planted at a depth between 1/8 and 1/4 of an inch. Seeds that are planted deeper than 1/2 an inch may not germinate. Use a roto-tiller or hoe to create rows in your garden that are less than 1/2 an inch deep. Space your rows within an inch of each other to create a dense cover of red clover. Sow your seeds into each row at a rate of one ounce for every 453 square feet of ground. Cover the seeds with a layer of dirt no more than a 1/4 of an inch thick.

Considerations and Care

Red clover requires very little maintenance and grows best without fertilizer. If your area is experiencing persistently dry weather, water your seeds enough to thoroughly moisten the surrounding soil. Red clover grows in most types of soil but it performs best in well drained, loamy soils with a pH rating above 6. Consider adding a layer of topsoil to your garden if you are having trouble establishing your clover in sandy or rocky soil.

  • United States Department of Agriculture: Red Clover
  • Michigan State University: Red Clover
  • Pennslyvannia State University: Management of Red Clover as a Cover Crop

Daniel Thompson began writing about analytical literature in 2004. He has written informative guides for a hardware store and was published at an academic conference as part of a collaborative project. He attained a Bachelors of Fine Arts in English literature from Eastern Kentucky University.

How to grow red clover

Producing seed of forage species is not common in Ohio, because our climate is not as conducive to high yields of high quality seed of forages as in western and northwestern states. But each year around mid-July to early August I usually get a few questions about how best to produce red clover seed here in Ohio. Although seed produced by reputable seed dealers out west is of higher quality than what we can produce here in Ohio, there are a few management steps that will help improve the yield and quality of seed produced here in our region. Some of those steps begin with the first cutting of the year, which will soon be upon us. I will highlight a few key steps in this article, but for more details please refer to a factsheet from the University of Kentucky entitled “Producing red clover seed in Kentucky”, available online at http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/agr/agr2/agr2.pdf.

Cutting management – It is best to harvest seed from a red clover stand in the first full production year after a spring seeding (in second or third year of the stand). In the year you want to produce seed, the first crop should be harvested for hay because it will have too much vegetative growth for good seed yield and spring conditions are usually too wet for producing good quality seed. Timing of the first hay cutting is very important – first cutting should be made no later than 10 to 15 days after the first sign of blooms appear in the field. Delayed cutting will weaken the stand and reduce the seed yield produced later in the summer. The seed harvest should be made on either the second or third harvest when summer conditions are usually more conducive to seed production in Ohio.

Weed management – Many broadleaf weed seeds are difficult to clean from red clover seed, so areas harvested for seed should be as free of weeds as possible. About the only broadleaf herbicide option available for red clover is 2,4-DB and it does not control well-established broadleaf weeds and has a limited range even for seedling broadleaf weeds. So it is important to establish and maintain a vigorous red clover stand from the beginning if seed is to be harvested from the field. It the area to be harvested for seed is relatively small, the most feasible way to keep weed seeds out of the clover seed is to rogue them out by hand prior to seed harvest.

Pollination – Seed production in red clover is highly dependent on insect pollination, which occurs primarily through bumblebees in Ohio. It is important to use insecticides cautiously to prevent reducing the population of pollinators. It might pay to set a couple hives of bumblebees near the field during flowering.

Harvesting seed – You can thresh the heads in your palm to check the condition of the seed, but it will be ready for harvest when the majority of the seed heads are brown or black. Seed can be harvested by combining directly or after windrowing. Results from University of Kentucky trials indicate that there is no great advantage to using chemical desiccants provided the seed heads are dry and the combine screens and airblasts are set as recommended by the manufacturer. Chemical desiccation (e.g. with paraquat) might be advisable if the field is excessively weedy.

Seed storage and processing – It is critical that seed be dry enough to prevent heating. Heating will dramatically reduce the germination of the seed. Seed cleaning is also very important because seed harvested by combine will not be clean enough for planting. Refer to the factsheet referenced below for more details on these two important management steps.

How to grow red clover

Very few nitrogen fixing cover crops are as breathtaking as crimson clover. With their bright crimson red, conical blooms atop tall, fleecy stems, one might think a field of crimson clover was planted purely for aesthetic appeal. However, this little plant is a tough workhorse in agriculture. Continue reading for more crimson clover information.

Crimson Clover Information

Crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum) is native to the Mediterranean region. Also called incarnate clover because of their blood-red blooms, crimson clover has been used as a cover crop in the United States since the mid-1800s. Today, it is the most common legume cover crop and forage plant for livestock in the U.S. Although it is not a native species, crimson clover has also become an important source of nectar for honeybees and other pollinators in the U.S.

Crimson clover plants are grown as an annual cover crop and, like other members of the legume family, they fix nitrogen in the soil. What sets crimson clover apart from other clover cover crops is their quick establishment and maturation, their cool weather preference, and their ability to grow in poor, dry, sandy soils where perennial clovers do not establish well.

Crimson clover prefers sandy loam, but will grow in any well-draining soil. However, it cannot tolerate heavy clay or waterlogged areas.

How to Grow Crimson Clover

Crimson clover as a cover crop is seeded in the southeastern U.S. in fall to function as a nitrogen fixing winter annual. Its optimal growing temperatures are between 40 and 70 F. (4-21 C.). Crimson clover plants prefer cool climates and will die back in extreme heat or cold.

In cool, northern climates, crimson clover can be grown as a summer annual cover crop, seeded in spring as soon as the danger of frost has passed. Because of its attractiveness to pollinators and nitrogen fixing ability, crimson clover is an excellent companion plant for fruit and nut trees, corn, and blueberries.

When growing crimson clover in pastures as a livestock forage plant, it is over seeded amongst grasses in late summer or fall to provide food for livestock during the winter months. As a green manure crop, it can produce about 100 lbs. of nitrogen per acre (112 kg./ha.). It can be grown alone in pure stands, but crimson clover seed is oftentimes mixed with oats, ryegrass, or other clovers for diversified plantings.

In the home garden, crimson clover plants can correct nitrogen depleted soils, add winter interest, and attract pollinators.